The Gelfman IN-16 Nixie Watch: A Retrofuturistic Timepiece

What’s old is new again.

The Gelfman IN-16 Nixie watch is a unique timepiece that seamlessly combines the nostalgic charm of the past with the cutting-edge technology of the present. Drawing from the aesthetic allure of the space age, this watch offers a completely new take on time-telling with its Nixie tube display.

A Brief Introduction to Nixie Tubes

Before delving into the specifics of the IN-16, it’s important to understand what Nixie tubes are. A Nixie tube is an electronic device used for displaying numerals or other information using glow discharge.

The tube contains a wire-mesh anode and multiple cathodes, shaped like numerals or other symbols. When power is applied to one cathode, it surrounds it with an orange glow discharge.

Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)
Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)

Unsold tubes that have been sitting in warehouses for decades are now being used in homemade digital clocks and other devices. This surge in demand has led to an increase in prices, especially for large tubes, and has made small-scale production of new devices viable.

As testament to their longevity, and that of the equipment which incorporated them, as of 2006, several suppliers still provided common Nixie tube types as replacement parts, new in original packaging. Devices with Nixie-tube displays in excellent working condition are still plentiful, even though many have been in use for 30 to 40 years or more.

The Nixie tubes used in the IN-16 watch were originally produced in the 1980s, during the Cold War era. These vintage tubes add a unique retro charm to the watch while offering a lifetime of nearly 160 years.

The Genesis of the Gelfman IN-16 Nixie Watch

In 2014, entrepreneur and collector Ilya Gelfman envisioned releasing wristwatches under his own brand name. His idea was to create a retrofuturistic electronic digital watch, where the time would be displayed via Nixie tubes.

The watch, named IN -16 Nixie, was designed in collaboration with Atelier Gryaznov Design. Independent watchmaker Konstantin Chaykin also contributed to the production as a consultant. The result was a timepiece that combined the nostalgic charm of Nixie tubes with the functionality of modern watches.

The Design and Functionality of the IN-16 Nixie Watch

The IN-16 Nixie watch is not just a timepiece; it is a piece of art that encapsulates avant-garde, retrofuturistic, cyberpunk, and post-apocalyptic motifs. Its stainless steel case is meticulously crafted to exacting watchmaking standards, giving it a sleek and modern look.

Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)
Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)

The watch uses two vintage Nixie tubes to display time. Since the watch can display two digits at a time, a sequential algorithm for the display was developed. This unique feature gives the watch an intriguing appeal, as it first displays two digits for the hour and then two digits for the minutes.

Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)
Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)

The IN-16 watch also comes equipped with a modern controller that allows a special application to communicate with the watch through a gadget and program the functions and display characteristics of the watch.

The Technological Innovation of the IN-16 Nixie Watch

Despite its retro aesthetics, the IN-16 Nixie watch boasts a host of modern features. It is equipped with a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that powers the watch for up to 5 days. The watch also includes a built-in gyroscope for wrist gesture recognition, a low battery notification, and a battery level indicator.

Moreover, the watch can be fully controlled and programmed via a computer. By simply connecting the IN-16 watch to a PC or Mac, users can choose their preferred Nixie tubes’ backlight, adjust the brightness, and much more. This feature is a remarkable blend of vintage design and modern technology, making the watch a unique accessory for tech enthusiasts and watch collectors alike.

Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)
Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)

The Recognition and Success of the IN-16 Nixie Watch

The boldness and innovation behind the IN-16 Nixie watch did not go unnoticed. In 2022, the Gelfman IN-16 Nixie watch was nominated in the ‘Petite Aiguille’ category at the GPHG Geneva Grand Prix of Haute Horlogerie, the most prestigious award in the global watch industry.

The recognition by GPHG further cemented the IN-16 Nixie watch’s place in the world of luxury timepieces and showcased Gelfman’s commitment to innovation, quality, and precision.

Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)
Gelfman IN-16 Nixie (Image: markovsky)

The Auction Sale of the IN-16 Nixie Watch

The limited production of the IN-16 Nixie watch has made it a coveted item among watch collectors and enthusiasts. The first timepiece of the limited edition, signed #001, was auctioned by Ineichen Auctioneers in May 2023 in Switzerland. The watch fetched a price of CHF 21,000, surpassing the pre-sale estimate of CHF 7,000 to CHF 14,000.

The Gelfman IN-16 Nixie watch is a perfect example of how old technology can be given a new lease of life with a bit of creativity and innovation. Its blend of retro charm and modern functionality sets it apart from other watches in the market. Whether you’re a watch collector, a tech enthusiast, or someone who appreciates unique design, the IN-16 Nixie watch is a timepiece worth considering.


The Ultimate eBay Watch Shopping Guide: Gift Ideas for Everyone You Know
Dec 16, 2023
F. P. Journe Chronomètre à Résonance Ref. RN ‘The Second Generation’
Get Ready for Ineichen’s 50th Anniversary and Independents Auctions
Nov 30, 2023
Christie’s OAK Collection Part 1: The six hottest watches to bid on right now
Nov 18, 2023
Christie’s “Passion for Time” is a Single-Owner Watch Auction with Over 110 Rare Lots
Oct 30, 2023
Rare Roger W. Smith Series 2 Open Dial offered for sale at Wristcheck
Sep 13, 2023

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top